Well, here we all are in the famous Transition period of Brexit, where the UK has officially left the EU, but remains fully aligned with all EU laws and regulations, and is effectively considered to still be part of the EU.
In other words, it’s Phoney Brexit! The best comparison I can find is the Phoney War period from September 1939 to May 1940, when the Second World War had officially started but there was very little fighting.
What I mean by that is we are just at the start of Brexit, and True Brexit won’t happen until 31st December 2020 (or later, if there’s a further extension), when we free ourselves of EU law, and are running everything via UK law. (And I certainly hope we won’t descend into hostilities this time).
So at the moment, the UK has left the EU, but retains:
- EU VAT numbers, and is still part of the EU VAT regime
- Free trade between the UK and EU, with no tariffs
- The same tariffs as the EU for trade outside the EU
- EU directly-acting regulations are all still legally in force in the UK
And what this means for CLP and REACH, that is GHS in the UK and EU is as follows:
- the UK is still acting under CLP, so a UK address is valid on CLP labels inside the EU, and an EU address is valid on CLP labels inside the UK (this point has been checked with both the UK HSE, and with the ECHA Helpdesk)
- after Full Brexit, it will be acceptable to have a UK and and EU address on the CLP label inside the UK, and it will theoretically be acceptable inside the EU as well (again checked with both the HSE and ECHA)
- however, ECHA have said that CLP enforcement is down to individual member states’ Competent Authorities, and they don’t know how the two address situation might be interpreted locally after Full Brexit
- it’s also theoretically possible that an individual EU member state might require an EU label on the address during the Transition Period, but we won’t know unless this happens, it’s a “watch this space” situation
Poison Centre Notification
- as the UK retains EU-VAT numbers, UK companies will be able to generate valid UFIs using the UFI generator at https://ufi.echa.europa.eu/#/create
- UK companies will also be able to use the Poison Centre notification Portal at https://poisoncentres.echa.europa.eu/echa-submission-portal
- note that the next Portal update is due to be April 2020, it will be interesting to see whether the system is fully functioning by then, see https://poisoncentres.echa.europa.eu/-/new-improvements-to-the-echa-submission-portal (news about the portal appears here rather than on the main ECHA website)
- the UK will adopt all Harmonised Classifications from the EU, up until the point we take on our own laws at Full Brexit
- this means that if the Titanium Dioxide classification as carcinogenic goes through, the UK will have to comply with it, despite the fact that it is not based on sound science, as I have discussed previously here https://www.ghsclassificationcourses.com/the-titanium-dioxide-proposed-carcinogen-classification/
Safety Data Sheets
- all requirements stay the same inside the UK as they appear in the EU
- after Full Brexit, if you are have two addresses on the label, you may want to put them both on the SDS, or put the relevant EU address on SDSs for the EU, and the UK address on the SDS for the UK
- the UK will have to adopt new SVHCs, any new Authorisations, new WELs etc as they are issued through the Transition Period
So it looks like “Business as usual” during the Transition period. But what can we expect as we go through this period? There are a number of key dates:
1st March 2020: the UK and EU agree the legal basis for talks. Negotiations begin.
30th June 2020: deadline to agree on whether the Transition Period will be extended beyond 31st December 2020. Target to agree fisheries and financial services deals
26th November 2020: deadline to conclude agreement to allow for ratification of treaty
31st December 2020: current date of Full Brexit, when the UK stops following EU rules and a new treaty comes into effect; or we start to trade under WTO rules (No Deal)
It is interesting that both fisheries and financial services are seen as critical to Brexit, while the chemical industry is publicly ignored.
This is despite the fact that the chemical sector is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, and also underpins most other manufacturing industry who rely on chemicals, e.g. metal treatment, aerospace, car manufacture etc.
And of course, it also ignores the fact that we are tied into ECHA and REACH much more closely than many other sectors, and we have the potential burden of paying twice under UK-REACH, although my friend Neil Hollis at BASF has made some sensible suggestions about keeping UK-REACH costs under control here at ChemicalWatch https://chemicalwatch.com/86500/uk-reach-could-cost-basf-around-75m and https://chemicalwatch.com/86977/feature-brexit-uk-must-acknowledge-work-and-expense-of-eu-reach-says-basf .
Leaving the chemical industry’s lack of public profile on one side, the two key dates are:
- 30th June: this is a crucial date, because it will let us know whether the Transition Period will go on for a further two years, or whether we take full control of our laws on 31st December
- 26th November: this is theoretically a key date, because if there is no agreement by then, then No Deal is on the table, although in practice the EU are very quick to respond to changes in the negotiations
We know from the last three years that uncertainty is going to continue at least until June this year, and that makes preparation for life outside the EU difficult. And we still do not know what format a Deal will take, and how it might affect REACH, in particular.
What is certain is that there will be a lot of posturing from the politicians on both side. Some of this may be bluff, and some of it may be genuine, and again this adds to the uncertainty for us in business.
This has already started from both sides over the weekend:
- the EU wants the UK to pay an extra £1bn https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1236566/brexit-latest-news-boris-johnson-eu-bill-brussels-ursula-von-der-leyen-emmanuel-macron
- the UK Prime Minister believes the EU are trying to unilaterally change the terms of the proposed trade deal: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/01/boris-johnson-infuriated-eu-reneges-free-trade-deal/
- the UK may walk away from the EU talks because other options exist: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1237121/UK-Brexit-news-trade-deal-Boris-Johnson-walk-away-warning-EU-agreement-latest
My personal opinion is that a lot of this is just noise, and until we get to the point where treaties are signed, or not signed, it’s probably easier to concentrate on the situation as it exists at the moment, be prepared for No Deal, as per the advice given on the HSE website at https://www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/index.htm, and wait to see what happens.
If there are any significant changes for the UK and EU chemical industry, I will do my best to let you know.
GHS Classification Courses from TT Environmental Ltd
3rd February 2020
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